Suppose you want to get a Charlie Card. Better yet, suppose you’re taken hostage by a gun-toting, frustration-addled tourist who thinks you, as a native, should know where to get a damn Charlie Card — which lets users pay a mere $1.70 to ride the T, as opposed to the $2 Charlie Ticket fare. What to do?
Maybe you go to Kenmore Station. The vending machines don’t actually sell Charlie Cards, but they all tout the gargantuan savings ($6 over the course of 20 rides!) offered by them. You walk to the T attendant’s booth — no one’s there. You wait 10 minutes. Finally, you catch a T maintenance worker. When he sees the attendant is AWOL, he runs downstairs. A minute later, he’s back with a bona fide Charlie Card. Success!
Then again, maybe you try Ruggles. The attendant sounds sad when you ask how to get a Charlie Card. “You can’t,” she replies. “We don’t have them anymore.” So . . . maybe they can be procured somewhere else? “I’ll show you how to do it,” she says, walking over to the vending machines. “It’s two dollars.” She’s trying to stick you with a Charlie Ticket! You politely decline, and ask again. “You can’t,” she repeats, in a tone generally used with toddlers and the elderly. “We don’t have them anymore.”
What about Park Street? After all, it’s the city’s tourism epicenter (Boston Common, the start of the Freedom Trail, etc.) CHARLIE’S HERE, screams a graphic just outside the entrance. Except he’s not. The attendant unlocks a little compartment: there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts cup, a cordless phone, some bus schedules — but no Charlie Cards. Try the other entrance, she suggests. (The other entrance doesn’t have them, either.) Or go to another station.
Now, it is possible to order Charlie Cards through the T’s Web site, MBTA.com. But this method requires a level of foresight most of us don’t have — and it’s useless to the tourists Boston allegedly wants to attract.
Perhaps that’s the point: after all, every ride sans Charlie Card is another thirty cents in the T’s coffers. But that is shortsighted logic. By creating Charlie Cards and then making them nearly impossible to obtain, the T has given locals yet another reason to drive instead. As for tourists, would you want to visit a city whose public-transit system goaded you with an unsolvable riddle? Surely there’s a better way. Sorry, Charlie.